She zeroes in on fascinating ancestors like James Woodside, who moved from Ireland to America and fought in the French and Indian War, taking part in battles against Native Americans. Again and again, Sherman faces the complex humanity of her forebears, some of them public figures: Simon Sallade left a long public record, not all of it savory, while Irish immigrant George McEliece, possibly an embezzler, faced great anti-Catholic sentiment. His son John fought in the Civil War for the Union but later employed children in deadly mine work. She closes the book with a look at her grandfather, a beloved and respected physician.
The original research and the book’s confrontation with the American past are invaluable. Still, what Sherman has crafted here is not quite a family record and not quite a work of general-interest history, either. Often, when she zeroes in on her family, the effect is like reading through someone else's genealogy: interesting up to a point, but still the details of someone else's life. Her reckoning with the history she turns up, while pained and engaging, gets overpowered by the accumulation of charts, diagrams, and other ephemera.
Takeaway: A confrontation with American history and one family’s rise, as revealed in original research and admirable frankness about the past.
Great for fans of: Eliza Griswold’s Amity and Prosperity, Jill Lepore’s These Truths.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
Pat Speth Sherman proves herself as a skilled chronicler of America's past in this account of her family's role in various epochal events...Her writing never becomes dryly invective, but remains vividly pictorial and even poetic throughout...Genealogy buffs will especially admire the detective work Sherman performed in excavating her family's past, but anyone interested in a fresh perspective on American history can profit from her rich work.
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The fascinating family biography American Tapestry collects an in-depth series of historical accounts together to trace the early history of the Eastern and Central United States...[The family members'] lives are shared to reflect the progress and setbacks that the nation weathered thanks to the dedicated labor of ordinary individuals. The fact that each person in [Sherman's] story is more or less average...results in an intriguing demonstration of how the consequences of major events...manifested in places far removed from their scenes of action.
Who makes history? We all do, for better and for worse. In this compelling account of family and local history, Pat [Speth] Sherman explains how ordinary people wove the complex fabric of American life. Ranging from the French and Indian War to the labor wars of America's industrial revolution, she recounts the wrongs done to her ancestors without flinching from the wrongs they did to others. In the process, she produces not only an engaging narrative of American history, but also a meditation on the nature of historical knowledge, how it is produced, and how it is suppressed. Pat [Speth] Sherman's research made her think differently about the American history she learned in school. Frank, honest, and deftly written, American Tapestry offers a new perspective on the American past.
A rigorous, absorbing family account that offers a microcosm and a macrocosm...Sherman is a competent writer and is passionate about the downtrodden...Readers get a very thoughtful panorama of 250 years of history, change, and how this "middling" family dealt with all of it. She is a formidable and patient researcher.
Every family has a story, but most lack the records and a worthy chronicler equipped to tell its story. Few are graced by a storyteller like Pat Speth Sherman. Sherman's American Tapestry is a captivating tale well told. Her sweeping yet intimate true story, spanning two centuries of ordinary life, is nothing less than etraordinary. Sherman's vibrant characters--her ancestors--were not presidents or generals or titans of industry, but they embody American history in ways that reach beneath and beyond history textbook narratives. American Tapestry's saga is family history and American history, an exemplary, lively exploration of how real people experienced and shaped their past--and our past. Throughout, Sherman is a deft, unassuming but perceptive guide, a loving but critical narrator, who leads us not only on a rich journey through the American past but takes us along on her own personal expedition of discovery.